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Why so long?!

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Forum topic by Edwardnorton posted 08-25-2015 09:44 AM 1354 views 0 times favorited 21 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Edwardnorton

181 posts in 1392 days


08-25-2015 09:44 AM

Topic tags/keywords: lathe lathe tools wood turning

I have been in the contracting/renovations / designs for over 40 years but since retiring I’ve been diddling around in my wood shop. During all of my working career I never had to use a lathe but now I have 2 of them in my shop.

I thought I’d ask around here how come lathe tools are so damned long? I mean, I’ve seen some on the internet that appeared to be 36” if not more..

Ok you turning jocks out here, someone educate me!

-- EdwardNorton


21 replies so far

View HokieKen's profile

HokieKen

1787 posts in 604 days


#1 posted 08-25-2015 11:23 AM

I’m a relatively newcomer to turning, but I’m pretty sure it’s for leverage. The moment caused by the force of the wood on the cutting edge causes the tool to want to “flip” around the point that’s contacting the tool rest. The amount of force you have to exert on the handle to prevent it from “flipping” decreases in proportion to the distance from the tool rest to where you’re holding the handle. So I would assume that the really long tools are things like roughing gouges. I don’t know, but I’d guess that you’d be happy to have that length if you were turning a 3/4” section in the middle of a 3” Mahogany table leg.

Just my guess…

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View tomsteve's profile

tomsteve

394 posts in 685 days


#2 posted 08-25-2015 11:28 AM

36” long stem goblets. :)
ya know, ive seen some pretty big ones myself and the only thing i could think of is for something like 4 post beds.
now thati think about it, my sons getting out of the army next month and mentioned he wants me to build a custom bed frame for him. i think i need a new lathe.

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Bruyet

34 posts in 608 days


#3 posted 08-25-2015 12:01 PM

I don’t know if this is the purpose or not (I’m less than a year into the vortex), but in my experience of using short and long tools, I think it is about control of the cutting surface. The further your controlling actions are away from the fulcrum (tool rest), the smaller and more subtle they are where the tool meets the wood. If your tool length is 36”, and 1” is past the tool rest, this ratio is 35:1. For every two inches of movement at the heel of the tool the cutting end moves about 1/16”. I hope that makes sense.

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Clarkie

380 posts in 1307 days


#4 posted 08-25-2015 12:06 PM

36” between centers is a common distance and is used for spindle turning mostly. The short bed lathes are for faceplate and bowls. The biggest lathe for wood turning I have seen is in Mystic shipyard, it is over 90 feet long, used for making the masts for the old ships of the whaling period. Have seen pictures of even longer ones the Navy used, over a couple hundred feet long.

View Picklehead's profile

Picklehead

1017 posts in 1395 days


#5 posted 08-25-2015 12:20 PM

Must be a guy thing.

-- You've got to be smarter than the tree.

View Wildwood's profile

Wildwood

1886 posts in 1600 days


#6 posted 08-25-2015 02:20 PM

Not sure if talking about a lathes distance between centers or turning tools with long handles.

Actual distance between centers on a 36” lathe is shortened by how you mount wood on the lathe. You have to take into account how much a spur drive center or chuck extend from the headstock spindle and live center in the tailstock. Obliviously if want to turn a 36” stool or table leg or 5’ coat rack have to do some calculating & thinking.

Long tool handles over 18” or long tools are great for large heavy hollowing tools but useless for most spindle and bowl turning. Tool handles vary a lot from short to long based upon use and preference.

-- Bill

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WoodNSawdust

1417 posts in 642 days


#7 posted 08-25-2015 02:24 PM

I asked a turner this once and was told that longer tools add weight and stability therefore eliminating chatter in turning.

-- "I love it when a plan comes together" John "Hannibal" Smith

View LeeMills's profile

LeeMills

271 posts in 767 days


#8 posted 08-25-2015 02:46 PM

The following is JMHO.
I agree the main purpose is leverage. A general rule of thumb is 5” behind the tool rest for each inch over the tool rest. That is why it gets almost impossible to hollow out an item over 5-6” deep without a special rig.

Bowl gouges are typically longer and heavier, a bowl 4” deep would require about 20” behind the tool rest for leverage. Much of the time a bowl gouge is held at the end of the handle. Most bowl turners try to angle the rest along the outside profile or into the bowl to get it closer to the wood. Some use special curved rest to achieve the same thing.

Most spindles are typically less than 4” diameter and you are cutting a max 2” over the rest. Even 4” is large for spindles, 2” would be more the norm where you would only be about 1” over the rest. The length of the spindle doesn’t matter because you are sliding the rest along it. It may be a pepper mill or a pencil bed post you are still not very far over the tool rest.
As Bruyet stated it is also about control. The finer the detail the more control so spindle tools are normally held at the bulb (behind the ferrule). Some spindle cuts also require lifting and rotating the handle and a long handle would get in the way with your body. Consider a pencil, you hold it almost at the tip for writing; hold it half way up and try to write; you lose all of the fine control.

If you are about to start I can link you to some Stuart Batty videos; very clear, concise, and covering some topics (such as overhang, stance, etc.) not covered by others as individual topics.

-- We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. Albert Einstein

View Wildwood's profile

Wildwood

1886 posts in 1600 days


#9 posted 08-26-2015 08:36 PM

Stuart Batty firm believer in long tool handles but not sure he talks about leverage as much as tool control and body movement & support. Yes he sold some of the longest tool handles ever saw before his business went bankrupt. I have never turned a bowl where needed a 24”, 30”, 36” or 42” handle. Longest homemade wood tool handles I use is 20 inches and that is an overkill on my big roughing gouge and 5/8” bowl gouge. My tool handles on thicker side than commercial handles available.

Not sure have an easy answer on lenght of turning tools including handles. Turners come in all shape sizes and preferences!

-- Bill

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bondogaposis

4035 posts in 1817 days


#10 posted 08-26-2015 09:54 PM

To provide leverage. There is a great variety in handle length and it is a matter of personal preference. Many like to turn there own handles, myself included. That way you can make ‘em how you like ‘em.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View DrDirt's profile

DrDirt

4169 posts in 3208 days


#11 posted 08-26-2015 10:55 PM

I always saw it as control… that you can be very steady, and roll the tool handle at your hip with the tool rest as a fulcrum to make precise controlled cuts.

The long handle tools ‘catch’ less often… leaving fewer occasional gouges as you make a pass.

-- 'Political correctness is fascism pretending to be manners' ~George Carlin

View LeeMills's profile

LeeMills

271 posts in 767 days


#12 posted 08-26-2015 10:59 PM



Stuart Batty firm believer in long tool handles but not sure he talks about leverage as much as tool control and body movement & support. Yes he sold some of the longest tool handles ever saw before his business went bankrupt. I have never turned a bowl where needed a 24”, 30”, 36” or 42” handle.
- Wildwood

I have never needed at 24” or longer handle myself but can see where some turning may. Hollow forms quickly become work for me and I just turn for fun.
Stuart, in addition to the 24” – 42” handles also offered 6”, 9”, 12” and other handles. Just depends on the job.
Here is a his video on overhand and tool diameter for bowls, he suggest generally 5X” for bowl gouges. If you looked at his videos on scrapers he suggest 3X” to 7X” depending on the type of scraper. Different parameters for parting tools, spindle tools, etc.

I don’t think this forum allows embedding from Vimeo but here is the link.

https://vimeo.com/68652450

-- We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. Albert Einstein

View MNgary's profile

MNgary

295 posts in 1883 days


#13 posted 08-27-2015 02:40 AM

For some reason we all feel our tools must exceed any needs we will ever, in our furthest imagination, hope to have. I mean, I mean, the tool has to exceed what I am going to do just because, just because. And that just because is cuz I gotta!

-- I dream of the world where a duck can cross the road and no one asks why.

View Wildwood's profile

Wildwood

1886 posts in 1600 days


#14 posted 08-27-2015 11:01 AM

Really wish OP would tell us whether asking about wood lathes verus turning tools. Think in true message board fashion beat tool handle length to death! Oh wait we forgot about actual useable length of the tool!

To me Stuart Batty just one of many great instructors around and have linked his old web site and videos before.

If want to talk about large turnings have a look at Ed Moultthrop’s his son and grandsons turnings. They use a homemade lathe and tools! Ed died several years ago and he and few others forge the way for really large turnings using homemade lathes & tools.

https://www.google.com/search?site=&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1280&bih=635&q=ed+moulthrop+woodturnings&oq=ed+moulthrop+woodturnings&gs_l=img.3...1084.18945.0.19753.25.7.0.18.18.0.144.851.0j7.7.0....0...1ac.1.64.img..4.21.952.gJgt3doj8Jc

-- Bill

View Oldtool's profile

Oldtool

2374 posts in 1656 days


#15 posted 08-27-2015 12:17 PM

Most definitely leverage, as demonstrated in this Youtube clip: https://youtu.be/P4qB6n1cm04

-- "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The point is to bring them the real facts." - Abraham Lincoln

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